Monday, May 08, 2006

Stephen Harper and John Tory to Shake in Boots

Liberal boys making big noise -- but over what?

One almost has to feel sorry for the federal Liberal party. With the business of governing the country firmly out of their hands, they've largely turned their attentions to provincial politics in order to keep themselves amused.

Last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper (the federal leader of the Conservative party) endorsed Ontario Conservative leader John Tory as " the next premier of Ontario. A strong Canada needs a strong Ontario... John Tory is a nation-builder."
This sparked a litany of complaints from all levels of the Liberal party. A ballroom full of Liberal party members at a fundraiser for incumbent Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty chanted "shame, shame" (though to whom, it cannot be said -- Harper was not present). Even Liberal party leadership candidate Bob Rae added his two cents, noting " What Mr. Harper and his entourage are doing is injecting a totally partisan approach to the entire enterprise of being prime minister."

It should be noted that just as McGuinty hopes to hold his ground against John Tory, Bob Rae hopes to be the man to attempt to unseat Stephen Harper in the next federal election.

Despite Harper and McGuinty having had what the Ontario premier described as "a good get-together" less than an hour previous, Rae said of the prime minister: " Clearly, he's insulting the premier of the province and it's not an accident. It's intended to give the back of the hand to [the] province."

Naturally, as many Liberals often do (if one can honestly consider Rae a Liberal -- he is a failed NDP premier of Ontario, who was lambasted in James Laxer's In Search of a New Left -- a book considered by many to be the unofficial NDP membership handbook -- for betraying New Democratic Party ideals) Rae has forgotten that the Ontario Liberal party is not Ontario, and Stephen Harper doing his job as Conservative party leader is not an insult to Ontario. Underscoring this is the fact that in January's federal election, 40 of Ontario's seats went to the Conservatives, 54 went to the Liberal party, while 10 Ontario ridings elected NDP Members of Parliament -- the Liberal party is hardly synonymous with Ontario.

Embittered Jean Chretienite Warren Kinsella has tackled this subject with no small amount of glee, stating: "As one young partisan said to me, 'John Tory has put his party's interests ahead of Ontario's. He's finished.'" ...Uh, yeah, Warren. They're called "partisans" for a reason. Furthermore, when one considers Harper's promise to address the fiscal imbalance that McGuinty has complained about for years, one that Liberal prime ministers Chretien and Paul Martin wouldn't even acknowledge...
Back to the whining and grandstanding. " Is it appropriate for the prime minister of this country to hide his meeting with Ontario's premier, the elected representative of our province, while publicly courting [Quebec premier] Jean Charest and playing politics with John Tory?" asked current federal Liberal stand-in John Graham.

Somehow, making complaints regarding the unjust partisanship of Harper's move in this context falls flat on its face. Graham may want to confer with his handlers, who would doubtlessly remind him that Charest is also a Liberal, before saying such things.

Enough dilly-dallying. It's time to get to the point. Is Harper's move partisan? You bet it is. It's also his job.

As the leader of the federal Conservative party, it is Harper's right to endorse any provincial Conservative leader as fit to lead. It's also his responsibility to do so. It's also his responsibility to ensure that anyone he gives his endorsement to is befitting of it. If John Tory is fit to govern, then it is Harper's right to endorse him as such.

It's no question that the Liberals are feeling vulnerable. They currently find themselves out of power for the first time in fourteen years. Their Ontario stronghold is not only under siege from two parties, but it appears to be slipping out of their grasp. And the great duplicitous David Emerson has defected, proving that they are not the only ones capable of poaching MPs from opposition parties (at least the Conservatives are capable of poaching MPs with some degree of competence).

Suggesting that trifling with the Liberal party of Ontario will have grave political consequences for Harper (potentially even graver than trifling with the fedeal Liberal party) only reveals this party's position of utter weakness. The Liberals currently resemble that kid on the schoolyard who mouths off at their nemesis from behind the biggest kid in school -- only they're too blind to notice that the support of their traditional muscle is far from absolute.

At this rate John Graham, Dalton McGuinty and Bob Rae may all be in for a shock in Ontario's upcoming election. The change of Conservative party fortunes in Ontario was considered by many to be key in delivering the Conservative party to victory in the federal election, all this sabre-rattling over such a minor matter will certainly send Ontario voters the wrong message.

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